Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Galaxy 1989)
With the 1980s heading towards their close, many felt the slasher genre had begun to outstay its welcome. Halloween had come first, but the huge success of the series spawned by Friday the 13th (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) had led to a market flooded with generic teens-in-peril horror movies of dubious quality.
The return of several key cast members from previous entry The Return of Michael Myers (1988) helps to ease us into the action. As Rachel, Ellie Cornell brings big-sister reassurance to the early scenes, while Donald Pleasence’s Loomis has become frenzied and almost hysterical. Less sympathetic in his desperation, he tilts the familiar hunter-and-hunted pattern to a new angle.
While a step forward in production values, some of The Revenge of Michael Myers’ content is very much mired in late 1980s moviemaking. Such touches are undoubtedly of their time, and can be seen as part of the film’s charm as a relic of the late 80s. What is less forgivable, though, is the contrived comic-relief humour of inept police deputies Nick Ross (Frank Como) and Tom Farrah (David Ursin), which lets the movie down on two occasions.
Rachel (Ellie Cornell) is already doomed in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Galaxy 1989)
More effective is a certain knowing self-awareness that emerges later on. Though the franchise’s third entry Season of the Witch (1982) had toyed with breaking the fourth wall in showing the original movie on television, The Revenge of Michael Myers goes further by having annoying joker stereotype Spitz (Matthew Walker) effectively dressed as Michael Myers for the otherwise embarrassing Halloween party. Even in the franchise-consistent world, Michael Myers has become an icon.
With Michael’s overall behaviour pattern by now familiar, more layers were necessary to keep the movie from becoming a complete retread of its predecessors. Part five has a definite Nightmare on Elm Street atmosphere, Jamie’s (Danielle Harris) frantic dash through the clinic basement framed by hissing pipes and shaking lights.
Mikey (Jonathan Chapin) and Spitz (Matthew Walker) plan for a Halloween night of debauchery in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Galaxy 1989)
The storytelling also had to become more complex, the intriguing appearance of the Man in Black (Don Shanks) hinting at a wider context for events. In the now-squalid Myers house (a move away from pristine suburbia that again betrays the influence of other slasher series), Michael’s character undergoes a minor evolution, experiencing a moment of connection with his niece that in some ways is more powerful than the movie’s many jump scares.
Harris’ excellent performance pulls at the heartstrings more than we expect a horror movie ever to do. Shem Bitterman’s original draft of the script had had Jamie become evil after the previous instalment’s ending (an idea with which Pleasence agreed), but Akkad and 20th Century Fox alike vetoed the concept, by this time being sure that the focus should never shift away from Michael.
Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasence) employs brutal tactics to get the truth out of Jamie (Danielle Harris) in Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (Galaxy 1989)
Despite the best efforts of director Dominique Othenin-Girard, long-running series producer Moustapha Akkad and the wider cast and crew, The Revenge of Michael Myers remains the lowest-grossing movie in the series to date. Six years would pass before the next step in the franchise, but oh, what a step it would be.